Doomed Rebels seek Hurricanes upset to stay alive a bit longer

The Melbourne Rebels will be shut down at the end of the season (William WEST)
The Melbourne Rebels will be shut down at the end of the season (William WEST)

Melbourne Rebels head coach Kevin Foote said Tuesday his doomed Super Rugby team can do "something special" by delaying their demise with an upset quarter-final win at the Wellington Hurricanes.

The debt-laden Rebels will cease to exist beyond this season after Rugby Australia opted last week to shut down the club, which went into administration in January owing almost AUS$23 million (US$15 million).

The Rebels limped into the play-offs, qualifying eighth in the regular season table following a 40-19 away defeat to the Fijian Drua on Saturday.

The defeat came just a few days after the squad learnt the team was being axed.

Only a surprise victory at the table-topping Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday will extend the Rebels' limited shelf-life.

Australian teams have a poor record in New Zealand, but Foote said the visitors have nothing to lose.

"We actually want to do something special. It's what history is all about, sports gives us this opportunity," Foote told reporters in a video call.

"You look at all the great rugby stories and think about the story you are going to tell."

The Rebels' demise means Australia will only have four Super Rugby teams in 2025 -- ACT Brumbies, Queensland Reds, Western Force and NSW Waratahs.

The Melbourne team had been scheduled to host the British and Irish Lions on their tour next year, but that is now off.

A handful of Wallabies play for the Rebels, including Carter Gordon, Taniela Tupou, Rob Leota, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Andrew Kellaway.

Foote said it had been a challenging few days for the squad.

"It was always going to hurt, to be honest. It doesn't really make sense for a lot of us," he said.

"We really believed, from the coaching perspective, that if it had stayed together to build confidence in the squad, we could have gone on to make finals more of a regular occurrence."

The South African said there was an emotional team meeting after the news broke, just before the team flew to Fiji.

"We spoke about empathy, understanding that this news means different things to different people.

"The fact is we are in the finals and want to be positive around that."

The Auckland Blues are home to Fijian Drua, the Waikato Chiefs host the Queensland Reds and the ACT Brumbies play the Otago Highlanders in the other quarter-finals.